Picking A Contractor
This post describes how to find a good contractor and see to it that he does a great job.
Cause usually every contractor knows what to do.
That's not the problem.
It's actually getting the entire job done right that is the key.
Quick Overview Of The Steps
Use google to find several good contractors.
They need to be local.
Hopefully within Five miles.
They also need to have current reviews.
Not 5 stars on average but nothing much in the last few months.
Once you have a list then check them against Yelp.
If they are not also on Yelp strike them from your list.
Finally visit the websites and verify they are not franchises, that they have listed phone numbers, and that they only cater locally.
Do a little homework on how to fix the problem yourself.
Google for solutions.
Watch youtube videos.
Take some pictures of your problem.
Figure out what other people have paid for similar fixes.
Look for makes and models.
Have your email, address, phone number, and availability ready.
Work your way down your list until you have called three contractors.
Can they give you solid prices?
Will they charge you anything if they come over and you decide not to use them?
How is the warranty?
After talking with at least three call back the one which was best.
Make an appointment.
Write a "preemptive" Yelp 5-star review.
Say you have high hopes, when the appointment is, and are generally impressed with them.
However when they are finished you will be updating the review.
When the contractor finishes update the review.
Add one or two more review on say Google and Facebook.
That was the quick overview.
Detailed Description Of The Steps
I have numbered the steps to make them more actionable.
However, I did not realize there were so many points to consider!
The numbering allows me to also more easily add and update this posting.
Resources in the context of this posting are places you might use to find a contractor.
What Makes A Good Resource
A good resource needs to be trusted.
Your neighbor is hopefully trusted implicitly.
But more than that the resource needs to have some clout with the contractor.
Your neighbor probably doesn't have that clout.
So in this sense the neigbhor is merely a starting point resource.
You want some resources the contractor cares about.
That has clout with the contractor.
Resoures he knows you will be judging him on.
The Good Resources
Google allows people to leave reviews.
They also show where the business is located if it has a storefront.
Otherwise, if it is a service company, shows the areas serviced.
Along with a link to the website.
Sometimes reviews vanish from Google.
Google makes its money from charging companies to advertise with them.
Then every time a user clicks on the ad google gets money.
It can be a few cents or hundreds of dollars per click.
Depending on the industry and such.
This is called "PPC" for Pay Per Click advertising and it can be very expensive.
Some companies have had all their reviews vanish after saying "no" to Google PPC advertising.
Probably just a coincidence but I'm sure it didn't feel that way to the company.
You as a customer are only concerned with reading the reviews and leaving your review.
Not whether Google plays dirty.
Yelp also allows customers to review companies with a 1 to 5 star rating.
Unfortunately Yelp censors the reviews.
Yelp has been sued countless times by companies claiminng extortion.
Yet this has not stopped Yelp.
Furthermore, Yelp aggressively shakes down companies.
Their telemarketers can hit up a company for hours each week.
They force companies to be listed with them whether the company wants to be listed or not.
Then surround each company listing with maybe 10 of their competitors.
The competitors will be listed first, last, and to the side.
Then their telemarketers will aggressively hound the company for money to remove their compeitors!
It can cost thousands of dollars a month to stop Yelp from playing games.
Also things "happen" to good reviews.
You can't say these reviews vanished because the company didn't pay Yelp for protection.
However you can't say they didn't either.
Yelp insists it is a computer program, (that they wrote which they have no control over), that kills the reviews.
Similar to the mafia insisting they don't order hits on those that don't pay protecion..
These reviews are then stripped of their stars and tossed to an off-page area.
It can be frustrating for a company when 90% of their 5 star reviews are "censored".
On the other hand, as the customer, you should look through these censored reviews.
About 3/4s of the way down on a companies listing there will be a hard to find little link.
Clicking on that will take you to the graveyard page where the reviews will be located.
These reviews often give a much better indication of how the company is really doing.
Finally, places like Yahoo, Apple, Bing, and others are using Yelp's review data.
I don't know anything about how the money flows between Yelp and these companies.
I do have suspicions...
Again you are only concerned with reading the reviews and being able to leave reviews.
Facebook is a bit different.
It gives more abilities but also allows ratings with 5 stars.
It is more social and attempts to get you to reveal information about yourself.
As such I think of it as a place where stalkers live.
However Facebook is very popular and can be used as a good resource like Google and Yelp.
Angie's list is a walled off area.
You may have to pay to use it.
It also has a rating system that you can read and leave reviews at.
BBB (Better Business Bereau)
The BBB is probably the oldest at this.
They are not used as much as Facebook, Yelp, or Google.
However it is a good resource to use.
Keep in mind it is pretty easy to rate highly at the BBB.
Again they like you to advertise with them...
Nextdoor is relatively new yet very popular.
A city may be broken down to many nextdoor communities.
You can leave reviews in your community and post to the city as a whole.
However nobody but those in your community can see your community reviews.
As a result many people say far too much thinking only their neighbors will read it.
Things get copied and emailed about though.
Despite the popularity businesses can't defend their reputation.
Furthermore if you leave a bad review here the business won't care because they can't see it.
Phone books are not a good resource.
You can't leave a review about a company in a phone book.
You can only see the business is willing to pay lots of money to get their name out.
Kind of like a phone book.
You can see that they want business but you have no way of reviewing the company.
Usually it is some kid who hasn't got a clue hussling for money.
Various industries have authorized vendors.
Your complaints might be heard.
It is unlikely it will fix your problem though.
Usually authorized dealers are more expensive but may be the only ones with the needed parts.
My take is to never buy any product that is proprietary.
You want something that is easily fixed.
Not be tied to some company that will be charging 3x more because it is proprietary.
And then after a few years finding the company has gone under.
Yahoo, Bing, Others...
These and many others are getting their information from Yelp.
However they don't have access to the censored reviews that Yelp has hidden.
Go to the source so you can see the censored reviews.
Insurance companies are the worst.
They don't care.
They play on your fears of being cheated and then turn around and cheat you.
If you can make it through to them after you have bought the insurance it is a miracle.
So they then ding you for a deductible.
The sub contractor then claims it is not covered.
However they can give you a great deal and do the job for you at a "special price".
It is always sad to watch the people get taken by this game.
Again there is no way to rate the service.
So watch out!
Make A Vendor List Off The Internet
Start With Google
Google is a great starting place.
Compile a list of as many you can that pass the following criteria.
After you have got that list it will be further narrowed down in subsequent steps.
First check the company's address.
Is the company local?
In other words are they located a few miles from you?
A company that has to travel from say Temecula to Menifee can't get to you in the evening.
There are just too many people commuting back from San Diego.
The freeway is a mess.
Or if it is in the morning they have the opposite problem.
They can get to you but then they can't get back to Temecula.
Traffic could make what used to be a thirty minute trip each way into something horrible.
So look for local companies within your city.
Even within Menifee it can take forever.
Especially crossing the freeway or getting past one of the many many schools here.
You want prompt service and no hassles if a follow up is needed.
Now cross out anybody who isn't getting at 5 star reviews.
Hopefully more than 10 a year.
You want proof the company does good work.
Finally sort the reviews by date and verify they have recent 5 stars.
That they are getting 5 star reviews on a regular basis.
It's amazing how many companies started out with 5 star reviews and then nothing.
Not sure how to explain that.
Maybe those initial reviews were friends and family?
Then there are other companies that have many 5 star reviews but in the last year it ended.
Now their reviews are 2s and 3s.
Which is even worse.
So sort by date and verify or you might not be getting a 5 star company.
Filter the list using Yelp
Pull up each of the companies using Yelp.
Sort by date.
Read the reviews.
Make sure they are about the same as you saw in Google.
If they aren't on Yelp or their reviews are not 5 star strike that company from the list.
It is necessary that they be on Yelp.
However Yelp being Yelp makes it almost impossible not to be there.
It's necessary because of step 5 below.
Possibly Use Another Resource
If you are still not confident then use another resource.
Or if there is a lot of money at stake.
Best be thorough.
So use the BBB, Facebook, Nextdoor, etc..
I've listed a lot of resources in step 1.
Check the websites of the top few
Check the websites of the top three or more.
You want to verify they are not a franchise.
If they have listings in other cities or states there is a good chance they are a franchise.
They have to make excessive profits to pay for their franchise.
You can be sure they are not offering good deals.
A local company must stay in business by going above and beyond.
Franchises work differently.
Also make sure their contact email is prominently listed.
Hiding the email address is a bad sign.
Avoid them if they do.
Prepare for Contact
Learn as much as possible about the problem.
Be able to describe it.
It's not good enough to say my spouse told me to call a X company to come over.
Unless money is not an option...
Take a picture of the problem.
Be ready to send it to their email.
Know the make and model.
How old it is.
Look at some DIY YouTube videos.
Figure out what is needed to fix the problem and ball park pricing.
Talk with at least three.
Surprisingly a lot of small shops don't pick up the phone.
Maybe they are off working.
If it is during their business hours they should pick up.
If they don't scratch them off the list.
Maybe they are on the other line and couldn't pick up quickly enough.
Let them call you back.
They have caller-id.
If the company is using an answering service that's no good.
Cross them off your list.
Do they speak the language?
Are they coherent?
Do they understand you or is there some failure to communicate.
Don't hesitate to cross them off the list.
If they can't give you a price and say they have to see the site offer them your pictures.
Don't let them come over unless they can give you a solid estimate on the price.
Besides, first time through you are merely talking.
Be clear up front and verify they don't charge if they get there and you say no.
If you cancel when they are there giving the final estimate you should not pay a cent.
What's the warranty period on the work?
Usually you want a year or more.
Ask on the phone!
Also check to see if the service is included in the warranty.
Or if it is just the hardware.
Now Call back the best one and schedule an appointment
Be sure to write down when exactly they are coming.
Ask who it is that will be coming.
And how long the job will take.
Leave a "preemptive" 5-star review on Yelp
Leaving a preemptive review on Yelp is very important.
You are summarizing the work you've done in the above steps.
That the company is local and met all your criteria.
You were happy talking with them on the phone.
They were able to give you an estimate over the phone.
That they are not charging you for coming by if things go awry.
The exact time they are coming by.
And that you will update the 5 star review once they have finished.
You are doing it with Yelp because the owner will get an immediate sound on his smart phone.
Google and Facebook send emails that may or may not make an alert sound on the owners phone.
So use Yelp and get immediate attention.
Sometimes I've gotten a Yelp alert within seconds of somebody leaving a review.
Before I have even left their driveway.
The owner of the business will hear the alert and eagerly check his phone for the review.
He'll see it is a preemptive review though and realize it is an opportunity to shine.
If he doesn't come out personally he'll send somebody out that does quality 5 star work.
It's similar to a restaurant owner not only knowing exactly when the food critic is coming but also who it is!
So use those preemptive reviews and work the system.
When the contractor finishes...
Naturally you need to update the preemptive review when the work is finished.
Fill in all the details.
If possible give them a 5 star review.
However if there was something amiss tell them what they could have done better.
But don't lower that 5 star review unless there was a real problem.
It hurts you and hurts them.
It hurts you because you need to have a long track record of leaving 5 star reviews.
You don't want a company to refuse to come work for you because they see you have left lots of non 5 star reviews.
You want to reserve your non 5 star reviews for horrible situations that need attention.
You can still leave 5 star reviews and constructive criticism so they can improve.
Finally leave one or two more reviews.
Say on Google and somewhere else.
Like on BBB, Nextdoor, Facebook, etc..
You want to take this opportunity to use the resources to their fullest.
It helps you and it helps the company.
Picking a company is not just about price.
It has more to do with ensuring you get great service.
Verifying they care about reputation and are active is only the first step.
The second step is letting them know they will be judged.
This way you avoid all those potential problems that might have happened.
It is always best to avoid problems!
Social media allows you to avoid those problems.
So whether you are elderly, female, a foreigner who doesn't speak the language, whatever.
Using social media allows you to avoid potential problems, get the best service, and get a great price.
So let social media work for you!
I rewrote this post on 2017-09-18.